In the months I spent lying on Douglas-the-couch, adjusting my pillows so that I could avoid being blinded by the sun traipsing across the sky, willing my bones to grow and my nerves to regenerate, missing Christina-Taylor and my lost physical capabilities in alternating breaths, I reexamined my life.
Well before I heard Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, wonder What would you do if you weren't afraid? at BlogHer'13, I was asking myself the same question. What did I want to do with this new path? Why was I focusing on the problems instead of the actions? Why was I afraid?
True, bullets had penetrated my previously intact self. My little friend was dead. My Congresswoman was damaged and a young man was being forcibly medicated so that he could stand trial for trying to kill us all. Some of my fears were justified. I knew that. I faced them every day, and every day they became just a little less intense, a little more knowable, a little bit easier to consider. They never went away. I just found places in my head to stow them.
The obvious answers aside, I also went deeper. Channeling Big Cuter, I adopted his Platonic view of existence: the unexamined life is not worth living. The lint in my stapled-together-navel was reviewed and considered and evaluated. What was holding me back?
Surely, I was no smarter than I was before the bullets began to fly. I was somewhat wiser, since new information and experiences had entered my realm, and none of it could be ignored. Being at Congress on Your Corner on January 8th had become a master status. Like being pregnant, no one could see beyond it. It was all that I was, and, for many people, it was quite attractive.
Amanda Myers became "my friend at the Associated Press." Ted Robbins, of NPR fame, gained access to my backyard and my heart. Ben Tracey, CBS's West Coast go-to-guy, and his production crew knew just how to light my particular face... and they took the time to do it. Brian Williams said he'd bring his wife back so that TBG and I could show them great Mexican food here in the Old Pueblo. He was sure we would have a great time. I was dumbstruck, gob smacked, overwhelmed. These were people who had talked to the people I'd heard on the radio, seen on tv, read about in the papers. Suddenly, I was one of them.
Surely, that wouldn't have happened if I had nothing to say. They kept coming back, even after the initial onslaught, to see what I thought. My thoughts mattered and were being spread beyond my circle of family and friends. I was an opinion shaper, a news maker, a semi-celebrity. As unwarranted as I might think it was, I was unwilling to squander the currency.
So, I thought. I pondered. I considered. I wanted to do more than the individual volunteering which had always been a part of my life. I wanted to organize a movement, to create excitement around a project, to get others involved. I didn't know where to start.
The kids talk about things being in my wheelhouse, referring to that which feels comfortable and familiar. For me, that centers around schools. G'ma was PTA president at all sorts of local levels. I was a classroom volunteer and school board president and team mom and field trip chaperon and all the other roles an involved parent plays in her chidren's education. If I was going to step out of my comfort zone and into the wider world around me, I decided to start where I felt at ease.
I fell in love with an elementary school. I was surrounded by volunteers who brought me food and fun and news of the world outside. I became a pen pals with a fifth grader in New Jersey. Over it all, Christina-Taylor sat in the niche in my living room, unseen by anyone but me, smiling on my ruminations and reminding me that I could do anything I set my mind to.
For a snarky, New York, heathen, her presence was unusual but not unsettling. I liked having my own angel in my corner. It wasn't the drugs... at least after the first month or so when I began tapering off the narcotics and moving to Advil and Aspirin... she was there and she knew I could do it. I took all the help I could get.
I founded GRandparentsINresidence and brought volunteers into the classrooms and the fiestas and Trunk or Treat. We bring Back to School Love Fest treats when faculty and staff return from summer break. We try to lighten the load and bring joy to the volunteers along the way. It's kept me from sinking into the abyss when the sadness tries to overwhelm me. It's impossible to be sad when 25 five year olds are hugging my legs. I know. I self-medicate that way a lot.
I've also brought my treatment team into the fold. Kyria Sabin, Master Disseminator and caretaker of the Fletcher Pilates legacy, told me she'd always wanted to get into the school system and, a short time later, she was. We had a rocky start, trying to attract enough students after school or at lunch time, but, through a fortuitous series of resignations and new teachers and frustration on all sides, the Pilates Youth Program was born.
The first component is in the classroom. Every Wednesday, the girls in the Sports Conditioning section of Amphitheater Middle School's physical education program participate in a Pilates class. Led by a certified teacher from Kyria's Body Works Studio, using equipment donated by Balanced Body, with research on their social and physical status supported by graduate students from the University of Arizona, wearing colorful socks courtesy of GRIN, the girls develop all kinds of inner strength. They are mentally and physically centered, they are more aware of the connections between their inner and outer selves, they are taller and stronger and straighter... and it doesn't cost anyone anything at all.
I love volunteers.
Fletcher Pilates runs a conference, and PYP's second component was a part of it. Fourteen middle schoolers, from eight different Tucson area schools, met every Sunday to practice and perfect a Pilates mat routine. No one paid them. No one gave them school credit. The assistant principal from Amphi Middle drove three girls from their homes to the studio and back every week. She didn't ask for anything in return. It needed to be done, so she did it.
Their performance in May at the Tucson Fletcher conference was met with stunned silence, burst of applause, and an audience on its feet so as not to miss one move. PYP proved to the hundreds of professionals in the room that pilates can and should be done by teens. We were in the vanguard of a movement, and Elizabeth Anderson jumped right into our wagon.
As the president of the Pilates Method Alliance, the certification and professional organization for Pilates professionals from all teaching legacies, she invited PYP to present at the opening session of PMA's 2013 Annual Meeting, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on October 10th. My job, as keynote speaker, would be to tell my tale and introduce the group.
PMA will provide the rooms. Body Works will provide the outfits, the rehearsal space, the teachers. Can you provide the air fare?
GRIN has linked up with fundraise.com. We've created a site where donations are cheerfully accepted. Fundraise.com will send us almost all of every dollar we raise on the site, and they've been incredibly helpful in creating a clean, clear, inviting space for us to present our case. I, of course, ever helpful and ever mindful of people's reluctance to click away from The Burrow, am adding the donation link at the end of this post.
Either way, if you can find it in your hearts and wallets to contribute to sending the kids across the country to strut their stuff in front of more than 1000 Pilates professionals, to receive the accolades they deserve, to show themselves that they, too, are part of moving the conversation forward, please take a moment and send us a donation.
Every donor will receive a personal postcard from a PYP participant once we get to Ft. Lauderdale. Every donor will receive a letter certifying that GRIN is a 501c3 corporation for tax deduction purposes (check with your tax advisor). Most important, every donor will bring us that much closer to showing the PYP kids that they are not alone in the world.
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